The founders of the United States formed this nation on the premise that each individual will one day stand before God and give an answer for his or her beliefs and conduct. The US was in fact the first modern state to establish an official policy of religious tolerance, which it formalized in the first amendment to the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In forty-five words, the founders of America granted all citizens “the grace to let others be.” The Constitution protects us from governmental interference as well as from our neighbors’ intrusion on our relationship with God. This is political legislation and religious tolerance at its best. This policy allows people who disagree to live in reasonable harmony with one another.
In recent years, however, the term tolerance has taken a disturbing turn. As a buzzword of political correctness, it now means we must not only live peaceably with those who hold rival beliefs, but we must also accept their beliefs as being equally as true as our own! By extension, if we do not affirm the conduct or beliefs of others, we are guilty of intolerance. Consider, for example, a group of people deciding that polygamy is a valid alternative lifestyle, and they lobby the government to legally recognize and affirm multiple marriages. People who exercise their first-amendment right to disagree openly then become guilty of “intolerance.” Consequently, tolerance has sadly become a negative term among many faithful believers in Christ.
Clearly, this is not the kind of tolerance affirmed by the Scriptures. As we discuss the issues of tolerance and intolerance, bear in mind that no genuine believer can affirm anything contrary to the Bible as good or true.
From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.